+ "Fido": Andrew Currie‘s film, the latest zombie reevaluation to hit theaters, is intended more to provoke laughs and poke fun at "Lassie" then to carry a message of social import. That just fine by David Edelstein at New York, who describes the film as "[a] shotgun wedding of George Romero and SCTV" and call it "madly funnyâ€”a treat for moviegoers who donâ€™t mind gnawed-off limbs with their high jinks." Manohla Dargis at the New York Times concurs, deeming "Fido" a "ticklishly amusing satire" that doesn’t push what could be seen as a slavery allegory: "Unlike Mr. Romero or the zombie comedy ‘Shaun of the Dead,’ where the living are so zombie-like they donâ€™t initially notice the undead, the filmmakers remain content to graze and to nibble, skimming the surface rather than sinking in deep." Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE, on the other hand, does find underlying social commentary in the film: "It’s an alternate history in which the by-now classic metaphor for the unspoken fear lurking beneath the repressed behavior of Fifties mainstream society exists very much out in the open."
Rob Nelson at the Village Voice is less amused: "Within 20 minutes, Vancouver-based writer-director Andrew Currie leads us to stop expecting actual jokes while squandering the talents of an overqualified cast." Nick Schager at Slant finds the film’s inability to define its central allegory dissatisfying:
Consumer products who perform menial labor and household chores, the zombies are sorta like slaves, though the fact that they were defeated in a world war means they’re sorta like integrated Nazis, while their insidious, subversive assimilation into the ’50s nuclear family unit means they’re sorta like communists, and their willingness to have sex with Tim Blake Nelson (as a neighborhood perv) means they’re sorta like undiscerning whores.
+ "Eagle Vs. Shark": It’s seems safe to say that we are over quirk, or so the occasionally virulent reviews of New Zealand director Taika Cohen‘s feature debut "Eagle Vs. Shark," about a romance between, yes, nerdy outcasts, would indicate. On the positive side, Andrew O’Hehir at Salon describes it as "the latest contender for the Napoleon Sunshine cuddly-awkward award," but is still somewhat fond, calling it "a perfectly cheerful time at the movies, without any hint of drama or surprise." A little less keen is A.O. Scott at the New York Times, who writes that the film is "a small, intermittently charming, sometimes tiresome celebration of quirkiness."
From there we go to Tasha Robinson at the Onion AV Club, who cites the film’s clear influences and dubs it "a nerdcore clip show, a sort of straight-faced Epic Movie for fans of discomfort comedy." Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly complains that "[i]t’s a tale that reduces angst, not to mention love, to a generational tic." "You can’t see the forest for the twee in writer-director Taika
Waititi’s thicket of cutesy conceits, from the stunted supporting
characters to the precious animated interludes," notes Jim Ridley at the Village Voice.
At Slant, Nick Schager suggests that "Waititi cares less about the selflessness of Lily’s devotion or the intricacies of an amorous relationship than he does pitiful, photocopied Napoleon Dynamite-style gags, of which there are so many that the film’s imitativeness becomes out-and-out embarrassing." And Michael Joshua Rowin at indieWIRE delivers a screed against the film and the "recent trend of offbeat, adorable stillbirths about families of barely lovable misfits learning valuable life lessons in a world of kitschy crap" that we can only suggest you read in its entirety.
+ "Lights in the Dusk": No one looks to the films of Finnish director Aki KaurismÃ¤ki for over-the-top excitement, but what the critics are seeing in his latest deadpan feature is just as lacking in noticeable highs or lows. "Finnish director Aki KaurismÃ¤kiâ€™s deadpan style isnâ€™t always enjoyable," shrugs Armond White at the New York Press, who actually quite likes the film: "While rejecting the specious optimism Hollywood sells, he distills the world to its unadorned truth: work, anomie and frustration." Nathan Lee at the Village Voice is on the other side of the fence: "Delectation of cinematography asideâ€”the picture carefully realizes the visual idea of its titleâ€”KaurismÃ¤ki has given us no special reason to revisit his coy, claustrophobic universe."
Scott Tobias at the Onion AV Club thinks the film represents a step back for the director: "Coming after the much more expansive Man Without A Past, which warmly considered a whole community of Helsinki outcasts, this relentlessly pared-down film feels a little arid and rote, too much like KaurismÃ¤ki going through the motions. It’s as if the director, having spent his career trying new variations on a theme, had just decided to go back to square one." No, KaurismÃ¤ki’s exactly the same, according to Jeff Reichert at indieWIRE, who lauds the fact that "’Lights in the Dusk’ is nothing more nor less than exactly the kind
film he’s always made. On a handful of occasions throughout his career
he’s plumbed this material better than almost anyone, and even if ‘Dusk’ may not come close to scaling those heights, it’s easy enjoyment
while we wait for the next attempt."
Ed Gonzalez at Slant hilariously asides that the film "suggests what it might be like to stare at Bill Murray in a coma for 75 minutes," but also finds that it is "bound to alienate the filmmaker’s coffee-drinking, cigarette-smoking
base with a tone that’s almost holier-than-thou, always teetering on
the edge of self-parody." Andrew O’Hehir at Salon notes the story is "unrelentingly grim," but that "there are sumptuous visual rewards to be found, plus the faintest emotional uptick right at the end," while Stephen Holden at the New York Times also calls out the "exquisite cinematography."